By Courtney Oakes
AURORA -- Quiet is not something the Ohana Tigers Gold Limardo 16U team does, but when it comes to hitting, pitching and defending, they’ve got it covered.
Playing their fourth game on the final day of the Colorado July 4th tournament — and 10th of the week — the Tigers put it all on display in a 6-1 victory over NW Bullets-Duman at the Aurora Sports Park that landed them the 16U Supplemental Power Pool championship.
There was an unexplained ukulele, an outstanding performance on the mound from 2023 right-hander Ashley Sawai, an opportunistic offense led by 2023 infielder Jordyn Lawhon and something constantly going on in the dugout, but it all came together to cap an epic 8-2 week with a victory.
“Our dugout is never quiet, there’s always something going on,” Sawai said after she scattered seven hits and struck out six in a complete game effort. “We’re kindof a goofy team, so we have props to help us. We have cowboy hats, sunglasses and pompoms, a bunch of crazy stuff. We have a ukulele and it just came up this morning for some reason, so I was like ‘ok, let’s go with it.’”
Likely because of all that, coach Darrell Limardo’s Cerrito, California-based Tigers certainly were anything but tight in their fourth game of the day, which started with a 13-2 win over powerful Epic 04 Premier Smith, continued with a 9-0 shutout of Illusions Premier Schrader before a 7-2 victory over Explosion Hagberg/Schimmel that landed a spot in the championship game.
After three well-played innings with the Bullets — who defeated Turnin 2 Marra 13-5 and Georgia Impact Gold Caymol 13-6 to get to the title game — the Tigers broke through with two runs in the fourth.
2023 outfielder Janelle Pineda — who reached base all four times she came to the plate — singled and scored when Lawhon laced a double just inside the third base bag that rolled all the way to the fence. Lawhon moved up on Rylee White’s single and scored on Tanner Baldwin’s sacrifice fly.
Lawhon added another single in the sixth and her two-out line drive up the middle in the seventh inning drove in Pineda and Eva Leivas with some insurance runs. Brooke DeSmet and Isabel Ortega also plated runs for the Tigers.
“With two outs, I usually always clutch up,” said Lawhon, who tied with Hayley Gano for team-high honors with three hits on the day. “We had runners on second and third, so I had to get them in.”
The extra runs were nice, but with Sawai in command for the entire game, the two were all that was needed.
A potent Bullets offense — which had tallied at least 12 runs in four of its last five games — was held mostly at bay until the sixth inning. A Kati Slater single followed by a double by Annabelle Navarette put two runners in scoring position with one out, but Sawai got a strike out and coaxed a pop up on the infield to end the threat.
The only run Sawai yielded came in the seventh inning when Hope Bodak singled and came all the way around to score on Elena Castanon’s single that was bobbled in right field. A catch over the fence by Gano in right field sealed the championship.
“The biggest thing for me in pitching is hitting your spots,” Limardo said. “Even if your speed is a little slower, it’s all about hitting your spots and the defense will control the rest for you. She (Sawai) hit her spots, had velocity and everything.”
It was the best game Sawai pitched all week and it came at the right time.
“I was in a slump the first two days, but I just had to keep working,” Sawai said. “It was mental, I wasn’t in rhythm even though we were still winning. Mentally, it just wasn’t there. This was my best game of the tournament.”
Limardo got a little emotional when talking about the fortitude of his team.
“I’m going to tear up a little bit; for me, it’s about teamwork and working for each other and that’s exactly what they just did,” he said. “I can’t stand here and say ‘oh, it was this girl or that girl,’ it was every single one. They did a fantastic job.”
Added Lawhon: “We played together as a unit and that was the best part of the whole week.”
This particular Ohana Tigers team played at the Colorado 4th of July tournament for the first time after the coronavirus pandemic canceled their trip last season.
They want to come back, even after getting a taste of Colorado’s wild weather that made for a tournament filled with adjustments.
“It was a lot of fun, I really liked it and I hope we come again next year,” Sawai said.
By Savvy Rafkin
LOVELAND, Colo. – With ten games down at the Colorado 4th of July 14u Sparkler Juniors tournament, the eleventh was the one the OC Hustlers 06 and Epic 2k7 Gaither were waiting for.
The OC Hustlers didn’t have an easy start to the week in Colorado. While reaching the championship game in any tournament is quite the feat, the Hustlers accomplishment proved to be all the more impressive after going 1-3 in pool play.
But pool play is only pool play, and six wins later, the team was sitting in the first base dugout, ready to go. Once the coin was tossed at Barnes Softball complex, records didn’t matter. It was the championship game, and it was time to play softball.
A quick three out inning left Epic going into their first offensive appearance hopeful to jump on the Hustlers quickly.
But with a scoreless first inning, both teams quickly realized it would be a battle to the end, just like the road to the championship game.
The Hustlers took the tough competition as a challenge and scored one in the top of the 2nd inning with teamwork from Ashley Capelouto and Darian Rycroft to get the run across. One run quickly turned into two and the Hustlers found themselves at a 2-0 lead.
And the lead would hold. In the third inning, the Hustlers stacked on another four runs to the score while Epic only added two.
Widening the margin once again, the Hustlers scored five more runs at the top of the fifth inning, pulling away from their opponent for good.
The Hustlers took home the Bronze bracket title after an 11-3 game. With nine hits and only three strikeouts, the lineup certainly saved their best performance for last.
“This group right here, they never quit,” Hustlers coach Rick Aldrich said. “It’s awesome. We came into bracket play 1-3, and it’s tough. It’s almost like they go ‘okay, now it’s time to play. That’s out of our way, now it’s time to play.’ They did everything they were supposed to do and it’s awesome. I’m very proud.”
By Kyle Koso
COLORADO SPRINGS – After knocking on the door for five innings Saturday night, the 12u Beverly Bandits-Norwood team likely had bruised, blistered knuckles.
But those hands were raised in the air in celebration eventually, as the Bandits scored six runs in the final two frames to polish off the 12u championship game of the Triple Crown Sparkler Junior tournament, 6-1, over the Georgia Impact 08.
With weather delays and previous games running long at the Skyview Complex, patience might have been an issue for the Bandits, something made even more acute as they fell behind 1-0 immediately and simply couldn’t break through. Runners would get to third base, and hits would percolate through the lineup, but Impact starting pitcher Jordan Young mixed her fastball with a great changeup and kept the scoreboard clean.
Finally, in the top of the sixth, the Bandits solved the riddle. Emma Bruggenschmidt doubled in Molly Southall, and Reagan Kerns hit a two-bagger that brought in two runs as the squad took the lead. With pitcher Maggie Krause throwing strong, the Bandits had their recipe for a championship.
“It’s the never quit attitude that this team brings to every tournament, day in and day out. They are fighters,” said Bandits coach Scott Norwood. “I tell them before each at-bat, look for one pitch, and if it’s not there, don’t do it. It’s about your focus at the plate.”
Norwood used sacrifice bunts to advance runners early in the game; he chose not to with runners on first and second and no outs in the sixth. A fielder’s choice made it one out with runners still in place, and it looked like the inning might get away from them, but three extra-base hits were more than enough remedy.
“I get a little antsy at bat sometimes, but I tried to clear my head and not be as nervous and have confidence in myself while I’m up to bat,” said Kerns, who hit a screaming liner in the first inning that was caught for the final out, preventing the tying run from scoring. “Maggie gives it 110 percent all the time and is so reliable. If you get an opportunity, she holds on and does great.”
“My defense helped me a lot, and my teammates helped me stay calm,” said Krause, who allowed fours hits and one walk to go with eight strikeouts, including the final two batters. “I tried to take deep breaths. I knew my offense would come, because my teammates always come through for me.
“We feed off each other. When one person gets a hit, the others keep it going.”
Sadie Binkley’s double brought in the fourth run of the sixth inning; in the seventh, Southall hit a single to bring home Courtney Norwood, and Addie Norman scored the final run on a wild pitch. Southall had a big day from the leadoff spot with three hits, and Bruggenschmidt had two hits and a walk.
With a high national profile and the expectations that come with it, the Bandits were proud to take their place in a long line of tile winners at national-scale tournaments. Players hail from six different states and don’t get a lot of practice time together.
“I’ve got faith in them, and they have faith in each other. A great group of girls,” coach Norwood said. “Kids and parents, they know what we need to do to get them to the next level. And the work involved … they will have to travel, with long days and nights, sweat and tears.”
The Texas Bombers Rogers National team won the 12u Silver Bracket title on Saturday night as well.
By Courtney Oakes
AURORA -- Madison Conley has sent double-digit softballs over the fence this week at the Colorado 4th of July tournament, but it was the one that got away that turned out to be key for her Epic Premier Smith team in Saturday's 16U Supplemental Power Pool victory.
With her team in a tie ballgame with I-5 in the fifth inning at Kennedy Softball Complex, the 2023 slugger — who leads the 16U bracket at the tournament in home runs with 10 — launched a ball to deep to center field.
But this one wouldn't make it out, as I-5 outfielder Rayne Corona nabbed it as she fell over the breakaway fence in center field for an out. Because she landed out of the field of play, however, the Epic Premier runner on first base got to advance to second. Danni Sottile followed with a base hit to drive in the go-ahead run in what turned out to be a 7-4 victory.
"I was disappointed and not disappointed, because it was a good catch, but I know that it did go over," said Conley, who also had a run-scoring single in a three-run third-inning rally and also leads the 16U division in RBI with 23.
Corona's play was certainly the defensive highlight of the game and it preserved a 4-4 tie, but Epic Premier coach Tony Smith had to appeal to the umpires to make sure his baserunner advanced.
After a consultation on the rule, the umpires allowed Braedyn Sheofee — who was pinch running for 2024 catcher Beth Damon, who opened the inning with her third single of the game — to move up.
"The rule says that any time a catch takes you out of the playing surface, it's an automatic advancement," Smith said. "That was huge, because Danni came up and got a base hit right after that. The umpires had to check with the UFC, but the call went our way."
Indeed Sottile — who knocked in a pair of runs earlier in the game — came through with a grounder up the middle to put EPIC Premier in front.
"We needed a run to get on top, so I was trying to get it," said Sottile, a Northeastern State commitment. "Close games keep us motivated and keeps us pushing. When we get way up, we kindof fall back, but when it is a close game, we keep high energy."
EPIC Premier had seen a close game get away earlier in the week — a 15-14 loss to So Cal Athletics Marinakis in which both teams had double-digit innings on offense — but tacked on some key insurance runs against I-5.
Conley led off the seventh inning with a solo home run that landed so far beyond the fence that Corona could only turn and look.
It was the latest in a series of bombs off her bat in a memorable week.
"I'm really just staying back and looking for base hits," Conley said. "If it goes over, I guess it goes over."
The next batter, 2022 Kylie Kuykendall, followed suit with her fourth homer of the week for a three-run lead and reliever Addisyn Peterson made it stand up with a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh inning.
Valencia, California-based I-5 also showed a power stroke in taking an early lead, as first baseman Casey Edwards homered in the first inning to drive in herself and Savannah Gatewood and hit a solo shot in the third inning.
I-5 starting pitcher Savannah Arreguin also drove in a run on the first of her two hits.
Smith was pleased with the fight shown by his team in addition to the power surge that has produced 20 home runs thus far going into Championship Sunday, as well as a .453 team batting average that is fourth-best in the 16U group.
"We have 20 home runs so far in five games, which is keeping us in it," Smith said. "When you have that kind of hitting and score those kinds of runs, you get a little bit of pitching and defense and it'll keep you in a lot of games."
I-5 had to turn around and play the AZ Hotshots Day, while Epic Premier advanced to an 8 a.m. contest on Sunday at the Aurora Sports Park against a yet-to-be determined opponent.
WESTMINSTER -- Midway through California Cruisers’ 2021 Colorado 4th of July campaign, head coach Alan Caouette needed to make a change. Not in the lineup, in the coach's box.
“We needed a different energy,” explained Caouette. “Sending a different third base coach out allowed me to focus on calling pitches.”
Caouette’s gamble has more than paid off. Since the change, the Cruisers have rattled off five straight victories, including a 7-0 effort over GA Power – Tunon that vaulted California into Sunday’s 16u Power Pool Championship Bracket.
“The bats have really come alive,” said Caouette. “Earlier in the week, the bottom of our lineup was really producing. Recently, the top of the lineup has come alive and it's given us a much-needed spark.”
The top end of the California lineup went right to work in its crucial contest against the Power on Saturday afternoon at Christopher Fields in Westminster, Colorado. Though leadoff hitter Siena Stickney flew out to centerfield on the first pitch of the game, her hard-hit ball was a sign of things to come.
A walk from Leilani Gonzales setup up Chloe Lesko for the opportunity she’s been waiting for all week.
“I’ve been a big target for pitchers this week,” Lesko said. “I’ve been getting walked and hit numerous amount of times. I’ve been hit at lead five times.
“I just went up there with the idea that if this was my last at-bat, I didn’t want it to go down as another hit-by-pitch, walk or an out. I was really just hunting with a vicious swing at the plate.”
Whatever Lesko was hunting, she found it, killed it and will keep it on her mantle. A no-doubt, two-run blast gave the Cruisers a quick lead, 2-0.
While Lesko drew two more walks on the afternoon, California wasn’t quite done with the first inning yet.
Starting pitcher Avery Relph hadn’t even touched her glove yet before lacing a triple to right-center field. Later coming around to score via Kennedy Hobson’s inch-perfect suicide squeeze, Relph was part of a five-run inning that drained the life out of GA Power.
“We’re not going to hit home run after home run,” said Lesko. “We just went into this past few games thinking we need to jump on it early and not let the opposing pitcher throw her pitch. Instead, find ours.”
Lead in hand, the California faithful might’ve forgiven Relph if she was a bit blasé with a sizable lead. Not so. Relph, a heavy pitch-to-contact arm, was rock solid across all five innings of work.
“I predominantly throw my drop-curve all the time,” Relph said. “I like to throw it inside to try and jam the hitters to let my defense work. My defense does a great job behind me. They are always working back there in every single spot. They work so hard and I couldn’t do it without them.”
Relph did surrender more base hits (three) than strikeouts (one) but it was all part of a masterful game plan that saw the lefty pitch five shutout innings to keep the Power guess all afternoon long.
“My goal was to use some of our other great pitchers yesterday and this morning to have [Relph] ready to go for tonight,” said Caouette. “We knew her drop-curve was going to give these hitters some trouble. She really doesn’t give anyone a chance to get any power behind it. She was awesome.”
California would add runs in the third and fourth innings from a sacrifice fly from Kelly Fyhrie and another beautiful squeeze from Relph to help herself out. Though with the stellar defensive effort from Caouette’s squad, the Cruisers all but assured themselves a spot in Sunday’s Championship Bracket.
“I’m so proud of everyone,” said Relph. “I’m so proud that we could do this, that we could make it this far and who knows might happen tomorrow?”
Relph and company await its opponent for Sunday’s 8 a.m. matchup at Aurora Sports Park. With such an early start on the final day of an already grueling week, Caouette knows just what he’ll be looking for tomorrow morning.
“They’re picking each other up like a sisterhood,” Caouette said. “They hang out together all the time. If they show up tomorrow loose and having fun, I’ll know we’re going to be alright.”
By Alissa Noe
ERIE -- All it takes is one great play to alter the course of a great game.
On Saturday at the Ballpark at Erie for the Sparkler Juniors 14U tournament, Addison Duke gave the San Diego Power Surge the boost it needed when she launched herself over the center field wall to rob the Ohio Lasers of a two-run home run in the bottom of the third. That crucial out prevented the Lasers from increasing their lead in a matchup that eventually ended 8-7 in favor of the Power Surge.
“She was the first person I went to when the game was over because it was an amazing catch,” head coach Scott Berndes said. “We would not have won without that catch. If that (ball) had gone over, I think we would have lost.”
The Power Surge’s early deluge of offense served them well in the first inning as the team secured four runs in three consecutive at-bats, including a two-run bomb from Susanna Pate. Her first homer of the tournament couldn't have come at a better time, because the Lasers' offense responded with precision in the bottom of the same frame to close the gap to 4-2.
“I feel like it just brought our energy up and really got us into the game,” Pate said. “We felt it from there. We were like, ‘We can do this. We got this game. We want this game.’ Usually, we’re a pretty strong hitting team. We’ve got lots of power hitters and then we’ve got our slappers for speed. I love our hitting. It’s so fun.”
As the game progressed throughout the next few innings, the Power Surge and Lasers traded blows as neither team managed to gain a solid lead early.
Duke's third-inning leap of faith put an end to the Lasers' rally, as they had taken a 6-5 lead on a triple from Ava Chevalier followed by a Delana Landefeld double.
“I knew it was deep from the beginning,” Duke said. “So I said, ‘Just get to the fence and you’ll take it from there. If it’s over, just catch it because you have to do whatever you’ve got to do for your pitcher. She’s doing all she can for you, so do everything you can for your team.’ It was amazing because I knew I had it. I had it all the way.”
The Power Surge defense fended off the Lasers the next four innings until their offense found life again in the top of the sixth with the help of a Laser error.
With two down and a runner on, Itzel Soto stepped to the plate and hit the ball hard to the Lasers' shortstop. Soto was able to reach base safely due to a fumbled catch attempt at first base. Pate, on third, didn't waste the opportunity to give her team the 7-6 advantage by sprinting home to safely beat out the throw.
Kiki Sandoval brought Soto home in the very next at-bat with a double of her own. The Power Surge's 8-6 rush ended there, but their defense got the job done one more time in the bottom of the sixth.
The Power Surge improved to 6-1 at the Colorado 4th of July tournament and will get a bye for the single elimination tournament on Sunday in the same location. Now, the Power Surge sit just two games away from the championship.
“Fingers crossed,” Berndes said. “These girls will get us there. The girls just love to play and the fact that they might not get to play another game, hell, that makes them mad.”
By Dan Mohrmann
COLORADO SPRINGS – A fast start can mean all the difference in a big tournament atmosphere. That’s why Texas Bombers coach Albert Ramirez was so happy to see his team plate a high quantity of runs early in its 14-3 win over the Cal Nuggets in the Sparkler Juniors tournament at the Skyview Complex in Colorado Springs.
Having been involved in a highly competitive atmosphere on a regular basis, Ramirez knows that jumping out quick can mean all the difference the team is trying to work its way towards a tournament championship.
“Time is on your hands,” Ramirez said. “You have to score quick because you never know many innings you’re going to get into.”
The Bombers got their momentum rolling on an RBI double from catcher Abigail Orosco (Suarez) in the top of the 2nd inning. Three hitters later, with the bases laoded, Rae Ramos singled in three runs to break open a 4-0 lead for the Bombers.
“Being together as a team, it’s really important to pick each other up,” Ramos said.
That’s exactly what they kept doing.
The Bombers added four runs in the top of the 3rd to push the lead to 8-0 before the Nuggets finally found some offensive rhythm of their own.
Nish Mehta ripped a 2-RBI triple to score Allie Marcelino and Ava Lee. Mehta scored that same play as a throwing error gave her a clear path to home.
But that was the only damage that would be done on their end.
The Bombers kept taking their hacks and good things kept happening. Both Orosco (Suarez) and Ramos drove in three runs and they each scored once. For the game, the team had an overall batting average of .594.
What’s most impressive is that only hitter managed to strikeout. Even if the Bombers were hitting successfully, they were still putting the ball in play which can be crucial in a tight tournament game.
Combined with Jenise Ramirez, Allison Hernandez and Reahna Cuellar throwing a combined five innings and allowing just four hits and two earned runs, it was a solid performance by the Bombers.
“They were really consistent with their pitches<” Orosco (Suarez) said. “I really trusted them. They usually get us out of the innings. They’ll do anything.”
With the win over the Nuggets, the Bombers improved to 6-0 in tournament play. They’ve scored a combined 59 runs in their games and hope they can keep scoring with such efficiency.
“A lot of them try to get underneath the ball to drive it,” Ramirez said. “We kept telling them to cut the ball in half and see it out of (the pitcher’s) hand. That’s what we preach. These girls are really good hitters and they displayed that today.”
They displayed it all tournament. The big hope is that they can keep the bats hot for four more games in order to come away with a tournament win.
By Dan Mohrmann
COLORADO SPRINGS – The Diamond Fury coaching staff was tired of watching good pitches cross the plate. Heading into the bottom of the 3rd inning, they stressed that good pitches should be swung at.
The players received the message.
Bella Fails saw the perfect pitch and took a mean hack, sending it over the left field fence for a 3-run home run. That sparked a six-run third inning that lifted the Fury (Pearland, Tex) to an 8-3 win over Tulsa Elite in the Sparkler Juniors softball tournament at the Skyview Complex in Colorado Springs.
“I had one strike and then I saw my favorite pitch and I went for it,” Fails said. “Obviously it worked. It was great.”
Short of the 3-3 tie against Oklahoma Freedom, the Diamond Fury haven’t struggled to score runs in the Sparkler. They lead their pool with 33 runs scored and have shown a promising tendency to score runs at will. Fails led the team against Tulsa with three RBI’s, all of which came on one swing. She also scored twice to account for half the runs in the team’s win.
A win that was balanced with a solid pitching performance from Madelyn Guzman.
She didn’t give up a hit until the third inning and surrendered just two earned runs while striking out six hitters.
What made her so tough to hit was simply her command of her pitches. She retired the first three hitters she saw, and the first base runner got on via a passed ball on a dropped third strike. But as long as she was throwing the way she wanted and using her best pitches, she was always going to be tough to hit.
“My screw and my riser are my (top) pitches,” Guzman said. “Being focused helps me a lot as well as knowing I have my defense behind me.”
The Diamond Fury has big hopes of coming away from the holiday weekend with a championship win and coach Jayce Roundtree knows that a crucial component of the tournament win will rest on Guzman’s shoulders.
“We consider her one of the best pitchers in the state of Texas and the nation,” Roundtree said. “That’s why we ride her. She’s strong and she always gives us a great outing.”
By Kyle Koso
AURORA – When Imogen Gie launched a home run to left field during the International World Challenge game on Thursday, home plate turned into a dance floor as the rest of the World Team gathered to welcome her in celebration.
The joy and enthusiasm was no less a topic when Team USA’s play bumped the needle, including Mikey Dominguez’s home run that helped provide the offense needed at Aurora Sports Park for Team USA to escape with a 7-6 victory. Cowbells, drum, maracas and the sounds of national pride packed the stands for the contest, which was the final burst of energy of the International Challenge – a new tournament taking place just ahead of Triple Crown’s Colorado 4th of July tournament.
Thursday’s World Game featured multiple players from the medal-winning teams of the June 25-27 mini-tourney, along with at least one athlete from the other countries (19 in all).
Gie, a catcher, was also on the end of another exciting play, a perfectly executed throw from the outfield and relay to home, where she laid a firm tag on a Team USA runner for the final out of the third inning.
“No words in the world could describe this feeling. The energy on this team is insane; you would never believe we just met each other like an hour ago,” said Gie, who was born in England and has signed to play collegiately at the University of Maine. “Coming back to the dugout (after the homer) was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.
“I saw a bunch of people had gotten first-pitch changeups, and I hit one of those earlier in the week for a home run. I said if I see it, I’m gonna jump on it. That was a super tough pitcher, and I needed to take advantage. The last play was great, what a catcher loves … I put a good smack on her, it was great.”
Team USA kept up the charge, however, grabbing an early lead and ultimately never giving it up.
“It’s an honor to be here. Both USA teams are bonding well together – they all give me courage, even though we met about a half hour ago,” said Dominguez, who is headed to Vernon College. “It’s especially nice in front of this big crowd to hit a bomb. First pitch was a ball in the dirt, a changeup, and second pitch was there, but I missed it.
“I saw that pitcher really well; the next one … I have a coach who tells me, the first two swings are for you, so go as hard as you can. And I took one more really hard swing.”
“Triple Crown loved this idea, was very accommodating, and they love this energy,” said Manny Travieso, who brought the concept of the event to Triple Crown and kept its blood flowing through the low moments of the pandemic. “This is a unique thing in softball, and they wanted to see it one more time.”
By Courtney Oakes
AURORA -- Don Murphy has the need, the need for speed.
And his Louisville Sluggers 16U squad has plenty of it, plus a lot more.
Those things were evident Thursday evening despite only three at-bats for the Sluggers in their 16U Power Pool TV game against FC Brashear Smith RB at the Colorado 4th of July tournament. Only a pelting rain that made conditions dangerous enough that both coaching staffs agreed to end the game with the Sluggers up 9-1 could slow them down.
“It’s fun, we have a really, really fast team and we’re going to put a lot of pressure on,” Murphy said after his team improved to 6-0. “We may get thrown out once or twice, but we’re going to keep going.”
Indeed, the Sluggers got thrown out being aggressive in their first at-bat, as Murphy waived Katherine Murphy — no relation — home from second base on a hard-hit ball to center field, only to have her thrown out on a perfect throw from FC Brashears Smith center fielder Nanea Kyle.
“I was hoping the ball would have been wet when it hit the grass, but she fielded it and threw an absolute beebee,” Murphy said. “It was a great play but we’re going to continue to press. If they make plays, I’ll tip my hat.”
After the throw-out at the plate, the Sluggers found themselves still down 1-0 after their Ontario, California-based opponent showed aggression of their own in the opening inning when 2023 Marissa Morales singled, stole second base, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on 2023 Makenna Coleman’s single.
The Sluggers would pile up nine runs in their last two at-bats — with 2023 catcher Brenna Sherman knocking in six of them — but they needed a little help.
With Valerie Combs and Tinley Easton aboard and two outs, Meghan Heinsman hit a grounder that should have ended the inning, but she beat out a throw to first after the FC Brashears second baseman bobbled the ball, allowing a run to score.
A drag bunt dropped down by leadoff speedster Delani Sullivan with two strikes loaded the bases and prompted a pitching change, with the FC Brashears reliever walking Katherine Murphy ahead of serving up a rocket grand slam off the bat of Sherman. Three more hits and two more runs later, the Sluggers were in command.
They plated two more runs in the third inning when Zoe Davis walked and moved up on a grounder, Sullivan singled again and stole second and they both came home as Sherman lashed a single just inside the first base bag.
“We’ve been really aggressive this week,” said Sullivan, who had two hits in three at-bats. “We’re going to keep doing it because it’s been working. I feel like any time I get on, my team has my back.”
It made for a relatively easy day for pitcher Sophia Kleiman, who retired 10 of the last 12 hitters she faced after FC Brashers’ opening rally. Kleiman issued her only walk of the game in the top of the fourth when the ball began to get slippery.
“My catcher said just focus on you and me and pretend like nothing else is happening,” Kleiman said. “I just focused and got in my zone, threw strikes and kept them off balance.”
The Sluggers look to keep their streak going as they face a yet-to-be determined opponent in a game scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at the Aurora Sports Park.
Murphy feels great about where his team — which draws from a number of Midwestern states surrounding Kentucky — is at this point in the tournament.
The Sluggers found their offensive groove with a 13-run outburst against the Atlanta Vipers-Palazzo, then followed that with 11-run efforts against the Indiana Magic Gold and TN Mojo and were on pace for more against FC Brashears before the early stoppage.
“Our bats came alive yesterday; the first couple of games our 1-5 were hitting and now 1-9 are hitting,” Murphy said. “We’ve got really good pitching, really good defense and when we can hit like this, we’re tough to beat.”
By Kyle Koso
AURORA – Any chance to suit up is more than fine with the 14u Birmingham Thunderbolts-Kaplan.
And that even goes for Thursday at Aurora Sports Park, when soggy conditions threatened to take the fun out of the moment during the Colorado 4th of July TV game. Instead, the Thunderbolts put in quality at-bats and held up great defensively, polishing off an 8-0 victory over Firecrackers Weil 2024 in three-plus innings.
Rain ultimately scuttled the game, but spirits were high in the winner’s dugout. Saviya Morgan reached base in all three of her at-bats from the leadoff spot, priming the offense with her speed, and Bella Foran drove in two runs with a single in the top of the fourth. In the circle, Lilly Faye-McWorter allowed just a hit and a walk with four strikeouts in three innings.
“These kids never get rattled. They love being on the field together, and it’s like watching a bunch of kids doing what they love,” said head coach Justin Kaplan. “That’s one of the things I think is missing sometimes, where we focus too much on the next level, and we don’t enjoy where we are. You throw anything at them, and they love it.”
With two walks, two hits and an error, the Thunderbolts got off to a great start, and it took a remarkable effort from Firecrackers reliever Brianne Weiss to hold it to just two runs scored. Dailynn Motes led off the fourth with a double for the Thunderbolts, and they had poured six runs across when Motes came up again – that’s when the game was called.
“I just have to stay disciplined, watch a pitch go by, and when it’s my chance, do what I can to get a hit,” said Morgan, who Kaplan called one of the fastest players he’s seen. “We tried to keep cheering (in the bad weather), and if there’s a mistake we try to pick each other up.”
Faye-McWorter also seemed untroubled by the conditions.
“I was trying to keep the ball dry the whole time and hit my spots as best as I could with the rain going on,” she said. “The offense takes a lot of stress away because I know they are there for me. I can just go out there and throw strikes. We were all excited about this game and ready to do our best.”
“She threw fantastic. She has great composure, and you can never tell what’s going on in her head,” Kaplan said. “She did a great job.”
Ellie Partrick tripled in a run in the fourth.
By Adam Dunivan
FEDERAL HEIGHTS -- There are several members of the Valley Rage 16U team that have been with the organization for a while, but the 16U team itself was put together just a few short months ago.
It sure doesn’t look like it out on the field as the Colorado 4th of July tournament’s Sparkler Open division rages on.
Coached by Cathy Cole with assistants Kevin Hendrickson and Marc McGuire, the Valley Rage have won all four games they’ve played so far this week, including going 2-0 in box bracket play at Hyland Hills on Thursday. Wins of 4-1 over NTX Ruthless 16U and 9-1 over the River City Wolfpack have established the central California-based team as serious contenders.
“I’m really proud of our team, and from the start of the tournament we’ve just been very solid,” said 2025 catcher Ayla Lacerda. “Everybody’s been working hard.”
Lacerda behind the dish is one reason why the Rage have taken on the look of a veteran team. Just 15 years old and about to enter her freshman year at Turlock High School, Lacerda showed all the makings of a five-tool catcher (though she can play multiple positions). Her three-run home run in the box bracket winner’s game against the Wolfpack showed her power, her two-run double in the same game the speed.
And her savvy framework was spot-on. Of course, one would not catch Lacerda praising her own work.
“Our pitchers did really good, just throwing their strikes .... I really didn’t have to do anything” she said. “I helped them a little bit, but they did their job today.”
Truly, pitchers Cali Cole and Bree Barner were in a certain comfort zone against the Wolfpack -- who had made the winner’s game with a 5-4 win over the O.C. Batbusters Salmeron earlier Thursday. Spotted a 3-0 lead, Cole worked three innings, allowing one hit while striking out five; and coming in with the game score at 6-1, Barner worked three innings, allowed one hit and struck out four.
Defensively, the Rage were sound as well. It all protected a lead that only got bigger in the sixth inning. In addition to Lacerda’s double, Cole’s second hit of the game drove in the final run.
Valley Rage, which pounded out 14 hits against the Wolfpack, will continue play in the Mt. Elbert A winner’s bracket Friday looking to get into the weekend’s main event.
By Adam Dunivan
FEDERAL HEIGHTS -- After a day off from competition at the Colorado 4th of July tournament, the 16U Washington Shock appeared completely “Locked” in during Thursday’s Sparkler Open box bracket play at Hyland Hills.
Courtney Locke hit a home run and a double, and Rebecca Carson also homered to help her own cause in a complete-game pitching effort against speedy Chicago Cheetahs 16U Owens -- a 7-3 victory that pushed the Shock into Friday’s Mt. Elbert D bracket with a chance to continue playing for the event championship.
The Cheetahs played small ball to get two runs and an early lead in the first inning, but Carson settled in nicely to allow just one more run in the game and give the Shock a second victory of the day. They also defeated the Texas Bombers CTX 16U Gold Hybrid by a 6-2 score to make the box bracket winner’s game.
“The first inning was a little tough, but I tried to settle in, and then after that I was kind of zoned in,” Carson, a rising senior at Shorewood High School, said. “I was only focused on pitching, not worried about anything else, and I didn’t let the umpire’s tight strike zone get to me.
“They had a lot of good hitters and they had a lot of slappers, too, so I was just trying to stay outside and then trying to jam them inside, too. Get them to pop up.”
Carson allowed just eight hits while also striking out six. A sacrifice bunt and a sac fly were instrumental in helping the Chicago squad to a 2-0 advantage, but Alana Powell’s leadoff triple in the fifth inning was the only real hard hit ball that her foes could produce during the game.
Meanwhile, the Shock lineup got going in the third.
Locke started the scoring with a two-out blast. In the fourth, Olivia Halim and Hadley Oylear came up with run-scoring base knocks. And the big blast came off the bat of Carson in the fifth -- a two-run shot that also scored Cam Davidson. Davidson had singled home Gracie Long to make it 4-2, but Carson’s home run provided a nice cushion to work with.
“This was already a good team, so I can’t wait for more competition and more exciting games to play,” Carson said. “We had to get adjusted to their pitcher because she threw a little bit slower, but once we did, we were hitting great.”
By Kyle Koso
WESTMINSTER – After taking some flak and fending off a rally, the Texas Bombers might have wondered if there was still some wobble to cope with against the Lady Dukes on Wednesday afternoon.
But at the Colorado 4th of July 18u TV game, the Bombers regained all the positive rhythm that got the unit off to a good start, and before too long they had a 13-3 run-rule victory over the Lady Dukes in five innings at the Christopher Fields complex.
Mia Scott hit two home runs and drove in four runs; Baylea Brandon also homered, and Demi Elder punched in three more runs with a double as the Bombers won the Triple Crown TV game for the first tie in three tries. Starting pitcher Sophia Simpson escaped without too damage in the one troubling inning on the occasion, notching seven strikeouts.
After jumping ahead 8-0, the Bombers got a little sideways with each other on some fielding plays, opening the door for the Dukes (Cary, NC) in the bottom of the third inning. The inning ended on a tag play at home after a ball went to the backstop, and the three runs the Dukes plated would be it for the rest of the night.
“I thought we lost focus there defensively, stopped communicating and maybe got comfortable with that lead. We relaxed, and they put together some small stuff to force us to play defense, and we didn’t do a real good job,” said Bombers head coach Scott Smith. “Sophie settled in, got us some strikeouts. I told the group, this was significant because we were trying to do something for the first time.
“To do it the way we did, run-rule fashion … take that one inning out of it, I thought we played really well. Offensively, we were seeing it. We had a good plan and stick to it, and the scoreboard showed it at the end of the game.”
If Simpson (a University of Texas commit) was at all troubled by the third inning, it certainly didn’t last. She struck out the side in the fourth and rang up the next three batters after giving up a leadoff single in the fifth.
“My team did exactly what they can do; it’s expected, nothing new, and we should always hit like that. I should have done better, but it was a good game,” Simpson said. “I either think I can strike the next girl out with a changeup or rise ball, or I let my defense go to work because I know they have my back. Striking them out is something I feel I should do every time.”
Maci Bergeron (LSU) drive in two runs as the Bombers batted around and put up seven runs overall. In the fifth, Scott’s second home run built the lead out to 10 runs, also bringing home Elder (Texas Tech).
“I just go up there and try to see the ball well,” said Scott, also a Texas commit. “It felt good; I don’t really get excited, but it was great.”
For the Lady Dukes, Aminah Vega had three hits, including a home run, and Jalia Lassiter had two hits.
By Savvy Rafkin
ARVADA, Colo. – Don’t take your foot off the gas pedal.
That was the mindset that Aurora Lescody and Team Ohio Red 16U entered their final pool play game with on Wednesday night and the mindset they intend to carry into bracket play beginning on Thursday afternoon at the Colorado 4th of July tournament.
With three wins already under their belt and their hardest competition ahead, Team Ohio knew Mojo – Vickery was not an easy team to beat.
In a three-inning bout at Harold D. Lutz Sports Complex in Arvada, Mojo – Vickery dropped the game 18-0 in two and a half innings. Team Ohio jumped into action early, stacking six runs in the bottom of the first inning and riding the momentum into their 12 run second.
“We had this team circled in the beginning of our pool play because they’re one of the better teams here,” Team Ohio head coach Shawn Bray said. “Obviously they didn’t show that game, but we watched them in pool play yesterday and we knew they hit well. They were up for this game, they were prepared.”
Bray was pleased with the team’s performance. Suffering only one strikeout and executing twelve hits, two of which were home runs, is a display any coach would be proud of. Bray attributes the successful game to the hard work and focus of his players.
Even though Team Ohio is placed favorably in the standings, the team is focused on staying humble, mostly because the team chemistry hasn’t always been this dynamic.
“At the beginning of the season, our bats weren’t out as much,” Lescody said. “When we came to Colorado, it was like a click. We were all just coming back and snapping back as a team, and this is what happens. I think when we play a lot of games in Ohio, we play a lot of games and know the competition, so when we get a fresh start with girls we don’t know, we aren’t as nervous and we know we can beat of all of them.”
And even though Team Ohio will be walking into bracket play undefeated, not getting comfortable is the key to winning.
“I think we’re going to see a lot of good competition; we definitely cannot take our foot off the gas pedal,” Lescody added. “We have to keep going and we have to keep fighting. That team we just beat was one of the number one teams and they’re really good, so we need to keep going at it how we are.”
By Adam Dunivan
DENVER -- There wasn’t much that 18U Game Day Gold could do wrong on Wednesday afternoon at Waddell Park.
In fact, hardly anything or anybody got in the way as Annelise Garcia and her teammates outscored their two Pool F opponents, 33-4, in the 18U Sparkler Open division of the Colorado 4th of July tournament.
Behind the dish and at the plate, Garcia’s confidence was fully on display in an 18-3 victory over American Thunder Simons, and after the game the catcher did not hesitate to say she was just as confident in her younger club mates as she was in her own game.
“We had a lot of momentum from our games (Tuesday) … we finally found those holes and it all just came together,” Garcia, who graduated this past spring, said. “We had a good week before coming here to Colorado, so it was good to see the hard work pay off.
“I have a lot of trust in this team, especially on defense. We’re young, but I don’t think you can tell that when we get up to hit.”
By racking up 18 hits to beat the Thunder -- who had earlier made the Pool F winner’s game with a 9-3 victory -- the Game Day Gold lineup proved it was eager to swing at anything close to the zone. Yet, it also showed some patience in getting aboard via walk four additional times.
And there were some big hits, too. Garcia homered in her first at-bat and then tripled in her second one. Also with doubles in the game were Keira Cahalan, Isabella Lester and Kaydence Kinder, and Lainie McClintick and Kinder added to the team’s home run count in the fourth and fifth innings.
For Kinder, the performance at the plate was a source of pride after she was forced out of the batting lineup in the prior game due to injury.
“After that first at-bat, I felt really strong and just like, OK, I can get over this injury and be able to figure it out,” Kinder said. “You can see the confidence from everybody. It’s so cool to see everybody cheer for each other and also be proud of each other.”
Despite getting down big early in the game, American Thunder Simons did get some runs across the plate in the third and fifth innings. Dasia Triplett’s two-run double in the third frame was the highlight hit of the afternoon.
Both teams get back on the fields on Friday morning, with Game Day Gold entering the Mt. Elbert A bracket and American Thunder going to the Mt. Elbert D bracket.
By Savvy Rafkin
ARVADA, Colo. – While defense in softball is important, the better offensive team is almost always bound to take home the win.
And in the Wednesday afternoon 16U Sparkler Open Tournament game at Lutz Field in Arvada, the Suncats – Lopez 2022 and Impact Gold – 2023 Wright contest came down to the battle in the batter’s box.
Impact Gold (Canton, GA) was the first team to get on the board, sporting a single run in the top of the first inning, which would be the only time the team would hold the lead. Impact Gold ultimately fell to the Suncats 7-4.
Despite allowing one run in the first, the Suncats (Sacramento, CA) jumped on Impact Gold in the second inning and added four runs to their scorecard. And according to Suncats head coach Andy Lopez, a big offensive performance is nothing new for his team.
“We seem to start off pretty strong,” Lopez said. “They’re an aggressive team and we do our best to put the ball in play and put the bat on the ball.”
And putting the bat on the ball was an understatement for the Suncats. The team knocked four balls out of the park. Katie Marsh, Neva Adams, Avery Cordell, and Danyelle Leyone all left the game with a homer in their pocket.
Although passing the bat is essential in a ballgame, getting crucial outs is what keeps a team in the lead.
When Impact Gold hit their stride in the top of the sixth inning, the Suncats had to keep their defense tight to stay in the lead.
“We had a pretty good lead, and stayed pretty confident,” Marsh said. “We handled it pretty well. I was confident if we did give up those runs our hitters would be able to come back and make up for them, and we did.”
After taking home the victory over Impact Gold, the Suncats improved to 2-0 in pool play at Triple Crown's Colorado 4th of July event.
Miami Express 18U rallies from eight-run deficit to defeat NW Nitro Mace in 18 Sparkler Open pool play
By Adam Dunivan
DENVER - Judging by game scores from Tuesday alone, it was obvious both the Miami Express 18U and NW Nitro Fastpitch-Mace squads brought their heavy lumber to the Colorado 4th of July Sparkler Open tournament.
In the first three innings of their winner’s bracket matchup Wednesday at Waddell Park, there would be no slowing down. NW Nitro jumped out to an 8-0 lead after just one and a half innings, but Miami Express rallied to bat around in the bottom of the second and again in the bottom of the third, eventually leading to a 14-11 slugfest victory that put them at 3-1 overall this week.
NW Nitro tried to rally from a 12-8 deficit, too, but a legitimate inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the fifth for the Express’ Heather Arnett stole back any momentum Nitro had gained after cutting the score to 13-11.
“(The rally was great. We all just started with base hits and hard hits even in the infield and we just never gave up,” Arnett said. “I was a little worried at first, but I just knew if we started hitting, that we could do it. We’re a great hitting team and we can score runs when we need to.”
Both teams had scored 20-plus runs during Tuesday’s action, and while both squads had competitive wins to start Wednesday’s action, it was Nitro who surged to a big lead. Haylee Johnston hit a three-run homer in the first as part of a five-run inning, and the Oregon-based team scratched for three runs in the top of the second.
But Express was just getting started. Doubles from Alisen Pierson and Kete Ediger were the big hits of the bottom half of the second -- Ediger’s gap ball drove in two -- but Arnett also drove home a run in the frame and the team executed on the base paths to forge a six-run output.
The six-run third was even more impressive in that it all came with two outs. Izabella Zeller hit a two-run double, the next three batters reached base, and Ediger came through with another two-run double.
“Whenever I went to bat in those situations, I just told myself, you need to get a base hit, and that’s just what I tried to do, “Ediger said. ““I just think it shows we’re a great team and we compete no matter what.”
A home run from Nitro’s Abigail Carsley in the top of the fourth made it 12-9, but Zeller got that run back for her team by driving home Pierson on a sacrifice fly. After Nitro plated two runs in the fifth, Arnett hit a ball to the fence and flew around the bases, her pop-up slide at home met with a raucous cheer from her teammates.
“I was thinking (home run) … like, ‘I’m not stopping,’” Arnett said.
Zeller’s relief pitching was instrumental, but so too were a couple of stellar defensive plays from Braxton Stainbrook at third base. Stainbrook also reached base three times with two hits and a walk.
By Adam Dunivan
COMMERCE CITY -- Life was a beach for Yazzy Avila on Tuesday afternoon.
Perhaps with a day off on Wednesday from play at the Colorado 4th of July Tournament, the happy-go-lucky New Mexico State commit will make her way to a local sandy destination (yes, those do exist in Colorado) and soak up some rays.
Avila and her teammates with the Firecrackers ELP 18U Farris squad were living large in their second game of Power Pool play at Pioneer Park, rolling up hits and scoring runs with relative ease on their way to a 14-7 victory over Newton Rock Myers.
After a 9-8 victory over Nebraska Quakes Prime earlier in the day, Firecrackers ELP emerged as the only team in their pool to go 2-0 on the day.
“I feel like as a team we came out and we brought the energy … I was happy with our offense that we were hitting and playing well against these good pitchers,” Avila said after her team closed out the game following a rain delay. “It’s real good pitching. From the very first pitch, we jumped on it and were getting hit after hit after hit.”
Firecrackers ELP scored 11 runs in the first two innings against Newton (1-1), taking an aggressive approach at the plate and not missing many opportunities to put the ball in play.
In the first inning, they racked up five singles and the hit parade kept going in the second frame with five more. Avila’s two-run single -- her second of three total hits for the game -- scored Michelle Diaz and Sydnee Bowlin to make it 6-2. Diaz’ second hit of the inning, a double, scored Aylani Ottley to bring the lead to 11-2.
While Newton Rock Myers got two back in the bottom of the second, the Firecrackers responded with two more runs in the fourth inning. With Diaz’ two-run single the big swing of the frame.
Peyton Farris worked through traffic to pitch nearly a complete game, but Kynlee Bowlin came in and managed to shut the door in the fifth and final inning.
In all, the Firecrackers tallied 14 hits.
The team will pick up again on Thursday afternoon in facing the So Cal Athletics Jaquish/Marinakis 18u NTT and Originals-KC.
“Hopefully we just all bring the heat and keep hitting the way we do,” Avila said. “I want to do is win, and I want to face the best pitchers.”
By Courtney Oakes
AURORA - When it comes to offense in softball, it’s always better to get some later than never.
That was certainly the case for the Arizona Hotshots-Captain team Tuesday afternoon at the Aurora Sports Park in 16U Power Pool play at the Colorado 4th of July tournament.
Facing a 1-0 deficit that seemed to get bigger as the innings went along and with very little to show for their first five trips to the plate, the Hotshots struck for five runs in the bottom of the sixth — capped by a three-run home run by Sara Van Wickler — and a short time later had a 5-2 victory over the EC Bullets Wiggins to finish off a 2-0 day.
“I’m proud of the way that we finished, it kind of made up for the drought we had there at the beginning,” Hotshots coach Steven Captain said. “I’m just glad they stayed patient. They are tough and they know we had plenty of time, so they stayed patient and took advantage of it.”
A drought definitely described the offense for the first five innings, as the Hotshots — a team based out of the Phoenix area — struggled to get things going after scoring seven times in an earlier 7-0 win over Impact Gold Jazz. Captain’s team had just two hits in the first five innings against Bullets starter Kenleigh Spence and only got one runner to second base against the right-hander in that span.
Spence, who retired the first eight hitters of the game, was cruising along when she gave herself the lead with a solo home run to center field in the top of the fifth inning, but things changed in the sixth, which opened with Captain sending up Madison Muehling as a pinch hitter.
Meuhling made the move pay off when she dropped a triple into the corner in right field, which was followed by a walk. Tayler McCombs lifted a fly ball to left field that wasn’t deep enough to score the run, but Meuhling made it home to tie the score when a chopper from Jordan McMahon (who had one of the two hits in the first five innings) to second base was too hard to handle.
Adriana Coira’s RBI single gave the Hotshots their first lead, and Van Wickler followed with a three-run blast on the first pitch that landed over the center field fence and launched a massive mob at home plate.
“I’m not really a home run hitter, so when stuff like that happens every once in a while, when you get the bat on the ball perfectly, it’s just the best feeling,” Van Wickler said.
“I went 0-for-2 in my first two at-bats and I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I think I was thinking too much. This time, as soon as I came up to the plate, I saw that one pitch that I liked. I didn’t even think it was a home run, I was just hoping for an RBI.”
With the lead secured, the Hotshots needed only three more outs to seal the victory, and Natalie Rodriguez got them. The submarining right-hander allowed a run on back-to-back hits — with Elyse Kresho driving in the run for the Bullets with a double — but got a strikeout and pop up to first base to end the game.
Rodriguez allowed two runs in three innings of relief that followed a strong start from lefty Joslyn Sagote, who pitched four scoreless innings with six strikeouts. Hotshots pitchers allowed a combined two runs over two games on the day.
“I’d say we hit our potential really well and we know that we are a good defensive team,” Sagote said. “I’m going to give my all every time on the mound and do everything I can for the team.”
Captain said his organization missed participating in the tournament last season due to the coronavirus pandemic, but is thrilled to be back, especially given how well it has played in the opening two games.
“The pitching has been spectacular and the defense has been spectacular for us so far,” Captain said. “We are happy to be here, and we want to keep competing and see what happens.”
By Savvy Rafkin
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – When a national tournament shows up in your backyard, there’s no choice but to play in it.
Or so says 14u Prodigy Easton Hunt coach Brad Hunt.
“We make this an annual event,” Hunt said about the Sparkler Juniors tournament, part of Triple Crown’s Colorado 4th of July event. “There’s no reason why we should miss this with it being in our backyard. We talk about it every year how lucky we are to have a tournament this large in Colorado.”
Taking the field for the first contest in pool play on Tuesday night against Batbusters Sommerville 07, Hunt was pleased with how the team performed on the way to a 12-6 victory at Rolland Moore Park.
Despite the first game jitters, Prodigy (Colorado Springs) jumped on the Batbusters (Hilmar, CA) early in the game that went four innings. In the first inning, the Batbusters put up one lone run to Prodigy’s three.
“We went in here kinda nervous to be honest,” Prodigy player Cayla Baker said. “It’s a big tournament and all these out-of-state teams and whatnot. There’s so many teams and this is against a team we’ve never played before and it’s pretty crazy.”
In the second inning, Hunt’s team made their final pull away on the scoreboard with two outs, leaving the team leading 9-1.
After Prodigy’s big inning, the game came down to who had more offensive momentum.
Rising to the challenge, the Batbusters rallied and closed to within 9-3, starting a dogfight until the bottom of the fourth inning when Prodigy finally walked away with the win.
Even though this was only the first game of pool play, Hunt and his team are excited to see how things continue to progress. With an offensive display as strong as the one Tuesday night, both coaches and players are hopeful their success in the tournament will continue.
“I think as long as we keep the energy up and we’re talking and playing how we normally play and just having fun and if we’re ahead and not playing down to our competition, that’s how we’re going to win,” Baker said.
Prodigy Easton Hunt dropped their final game Tuesday to the Indiana Magic Gold 07 Smith team, 11-1.
THORNTON - New Jersey high school softball just ended a week ago. It was anybody’s best guess as to how the NJ Cheetah’s 18u – Mauro would gel in the opening days of the Colorado 4th of July. Two resounding wins on Tuesday answered all the questions.
The Cheetahs raced past the San Jose Lady Sharks, 13-3, in its first game in Colorado and held off a late surge from the Factory 18u Premier, 7-5, to stay undefeated.
“Coming out here, you really never know,” said head coach Gerry Mauro. “I didn’t know what to expect here in the 18u Open but I think the kids stepped up. What we’re trying to teach these girls is to play their game. It doesn’t matter if we’re here, over in Aurora or wherever. And I think they did that today.”
Already with an explosive offensive output in its first contest, the Cheetahs were eager for more against Factory.
Jackie Masone started the contest with a single, setting the Cheetahs off and running. Five straight New Jersey players reached base, allowing three runs to scamper across to set the tone.
“It was very important to get off to a hot start,” said Morgan Joseph. “You’re always looking for ways to grab momentum and keep it going.”
Hitting second in the New Jersey lineup, Joseph racked up four base hits for her team on Tuesday, including two bunt-singles.
“I just think about what is going to best help my team,” Joseph said. “That’s my job.”
Joseph’s attitude and aggressiveness led to three runs scored for the speedy right-hander.
“The aggressiveness is my favorite part of the game,” Joseph added. “It’s what makes it fun.”
While the Cheetahs were busy scoring runs on offense, starting pitcher Madison Lowry was busy keeping Factory off the scoreboard.
Not only did Lowry keep Factory to just two runs in four innings, she also helped herself out with three hits, a run scored, a double and four RBI.
Both Lowry and relief pitcher Elizabeth Gosse enjoyed a stellar defense behind them. Across seven innings of work, the two pitchers only combined for four strikeouts, leaving the defense to manufacture the rest of the outs.
“There’s a bunch of great girls out there,” said Gosse. “They go all out for every play. As a pitcher who likes to produce a lot of ground balls and pop-ups, that’s amazing to have behind me.”
Entering the final frame, New Jersey claimed a 7-2 advantage. Factory wasn’t quite done producing runs, though. Five consecutive singles pushed across three runs and had many Cheetah fans in the stands thinking negative thoughts.
Gosse wasn’t worried.
“I knew my defense was going to make the outs,” Gosse said. “I might’ve been nervous in the back of my mind but I’ve learned to quiet that down and focus on what needs to be done.”
Sure enough, Gosse forced a groundout to second and dialed up one last strikeout to seal the deal, 7-5.
“Coming out with two wins is invaluable,” said Mauro. “You can see their spirits. They’re in good spirits and they’ll carry that with them into the next game. That is so huge and so important to us.
“The key for us will be to keep them focused. Against my better judgment, I’m going to let them have a little fun tomorrow. Our job is to try to maintain that focus, try to keep them calm and light.”
By Kyle Koso
AURORA – This is in no way, shape or form a joke – Knock, Knock!
Yes, two powerfully launched home runs from Sophia Knock accounted for five runs for the 16u Indiana Magic Gold squad on Tuesday afternoon, and all the production was ultimately needed as the Magic held off the Lady Dukes Lamar/Lynch by a score of 11-9 at Horseshoe Park in the opening day of 16u Power Pool action at the Colorado 4th of July tournament.
Ava Sullivan added a three-run blast in the third inning, and starting pitcher Kylie Eads survived a rocky dismount as the Magic (Bloomington, IN) went 2-0 overall to earn a spot in the winner’s half of one of Friday’s brackets. Kaitlyn Gwin added two hits and two RBI, and Natalie Burns reached base three times and scored three runs.
Knock’s home runs helped pad the lead early; the Lady Dukes (Cary, NC) had jumped to a 1-0 lead on a first-inning home run from Alexis Morgan.
“It shows us how important it is to stay together and not show any weakness,” Knock said. “You have to work together to get the outs you need to win the game. It feels great to (contribute); I want to help out my team and get us in the right spot where we need to be.”
The Magic stormed to an 11-2 lead, with Eads (a University of Southern Indiana commit) asked to stay in the circle and stay in the fight as one of just two starters on the roster. Head coach Misty Boteler and her squad did their best to elevate Eads’ mood when the Lady Dukes scored six runs in the fifth, and the pitcher came through in the sixth, getting three straight outs after Morgan hit another solo homer.
“You need to know you can’t assume you’ll always end up winning, You have to take advantage of your situations – that team almost came back and got us, and you have to respect the other team,” said Sullivan, who had grounded out into a double play in the at-bat before her home run. “I was feeling good, I’d already hit two home runs (earlier Tuesday), and I hit into the double play. I said, no big deal. Second at-bat, let’s just wait on it a bit, and I hit another home run.
“I’m proud of how (Eads) finished. She came through her frustrations, and that’s what we needed from her. That’s why we won the game.”
“We told her we had confidence,” Boteler said. “We proved it on the field and at the plate as well. She’s a workhorse and got it done.
“It’s all about our game plan, which is about attacking, go big and go hard, don’t back down. Our first two opponents are probably two of the best teams we’ll see, nothing against anyone else. It’s quality competition, and a great way to start. We wanted to come out here and set the tone, understand we are here to play.”
Morgan also doubled for the Lady Dukes and scored three runs overall. Briyana Wright hit a grand slam in the fifth; Raylee Leiman had two doubles, scoring a run and driving in another.
By Adam Dunivan
COMMERCE CITY - Low and away, strikes all day.
That was the mantra for Texas Glory 18U-LA Naomi pitcher Macy Funderburk as she took to the circle against Arizona Hotshots-Delsante on Tuesday afternoon in the Power Pool bracket of the Triple Crown Colorado Fourth of July tournament.
And after a tournament opener at Pioneer Park that featured a six-run rally and a 14-11 win, the team needed a more smooth ride the second game of pool play.
Funderbuck delivered, and the offense rolled with two big innings in a 7-2 win.
“I was trusting my spins,” said Funderbuck, an uncommitted 2023 out of West Monroe High School in Louisiana. “At first (my pitching) started out a little rough, but then I just started throwing and had the confidence I needed. Everyone had my back, too.”
Head coach Ronnie Naomi praised Funderbuck’s ability to spin a ball, and for the most part the Hotshots had trouble connecting. Though the Hotshots spread out seven hits, the Texas Glory defense came through to limit big damage while Funderbuck also found the right pitches at the right time.
As an uncommitted student-athlete, Funderbuck knows the exposure of this 2021 version of the TCS July 4th tournament is something she wants to take advantage of.
“I love to trust my defense, that’s really all I can do,” Funderbuck said. “(The tournament) means a lot. It’s a lot of exposure, especially because of my age and the grade I’m going into. It just means a lot.”
After a close couple of first innings, Noami’s team put their foot on the gas pedal for five runs in the third inning. With 2021 Southeastern Louisiana commit Sarah Diaz (two hits, two stolen bases, two runs scored) and future college teammate Maddie Wilson (two walks, two runs scored) atop the order, the squad had baserunners for the bottom of the order to work around the diamond.
In the third, hits by Lauryn Packard, Michaela Doiron and Funderbuck and a bases-loaded walk from Elaina Kreamer forged the big inning.
“We had a great week of practice, and we did some things out of the box a little bit this week, but they took to it,” Naomi said. “I told them they balls are probably going to fly a bit but if we get base hits we’re probably going to win a lot of games. We don’t need the big hit, but the timely hit.”
The Hotshots dropped to 0-2 in pool play, but the team didn’t leave Ingram Field without some highlights. Notably, Adriana Armstrong came in to close the door in the third inning and threw three more scoreless frames.
The pool that both teams are part of include three 2-0 teams and three 0-2 teams after the first day. The California A’s-Gendro Premier and Lil Rebels RC out of Las Vegas also won two pool games.
“We got out to a lead (in the second game) and were able to rely on great pitching and great defense,” Naomi said.
THORNTON – Texas Threat head coach Julie Wyrick may have brought her youngest team to Colorado but after back-to-back victories to open the 2021 18u Open campaign, her squad is playing like veterans.
Opening with a 4-3 victory over The Bat Company, the Threat backed it up with a resounding 18-2 win over Intensity Midwest – Ganeff.
“By all means, today met and exceeded my expectations,” Wyrick said. “We’re a very young team with plenty of 2023’s and only a few 2022’s. A lot of these kids have never been here.
“We were going to tread lightly and see how it went. We played a very good team in the first game and the kids came out and really competed. That really energized me. I felt like if we were going to give that effort all week, I can’t ask for more than that.”
Right from the first pitch in game two, it was clear Wyrick was at least going to see the same intensity she’d seen earlier that morning.
Each of the first three batters reached safely and although Texas would leave a pair of runners stranded, it remained evident they posed a significant scoring threat.
Starting pitcher Dy’Osarithz (Sari) Travis surrendered a pair of runs in the bottom of the opening inning but quickly found the right gear to cool off Intensity.
“I have to credit coach Julie,” explained Travis. “I tend to get in my head a lot and she told me to settle down. I always stay in the air when I’m not pitching great. She told me to get down and get faster. It worked.”
In the second and third frames, Travis was downright untouchable. Facing the minimum six batters, she struck out four and allowed her offense to go to work.
“I just kept going back to my curveball and it kept working,” Travis said.
“Her screwball was filthy too,” added Wyrick. “I called a couple of screwballs there and thought to myself, ok she’s working now.”
The Threat had tied the game in the top of the second when both Annie Beckendorf and Erin Plunkett crossed home. However, Texas looked to break things open in the third and fourth innings.
Jaccie Burton led the third off with a single and set the scoring train was in full motion
In total, nine players came to the dish, including Kaylin Jackson who launched a deep two-run home run to centerfield.
“The pitch before the home run, she came inside,” Jackson explained. “I thought if she did that again, I was really going to swing hard. She did, and I hit one over the fence.”
Jackson would finish 4-4 with four RBI, three runs scored, a home run and a triple shy of the cycle.
“I was seeing a lot of inside pitches today,” Jackson said. “I don’t usually see that many pitches inside. I was able to locate well and put the bat on the ball.”
Following a five-run third inning, Texas kept the pedal to the metal with an eight-run fourth inning that included Jordan Iverson’s first home run, a three-run shot, since joining the team.
“To unleash the bats like this is breath of fresh air for us,” said Wyrick. “Our roster is light so getting everyone involved isn’t too difficult but to get experience playing in Colorado is huge. We know how to play in Texas but Colorado is a whole different ballgame.”
Wyrick and company certainly are off to a torrid start but everyone knows this week is a marathon, not a sprint to get to Sunday’s championship game.
“It’s up to us as teammates to keep each other energized,” Travis said. “When they’re up and cheering loud for me, it always juices me up. We’ll all have to do the same.”